Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Years ago,  I was obsessed with Graeme Base's THE ELEVENTH HOUR. It was a fun mystery with a code that needed to be solved.  My family and I spent hours working through the text and pictures to determine the answer to the mystery.  My students (at the time 4th graders) were also hooked and many spent days working on the puzzle.  I can see the same thing happening with Graeme Base's new book THE JEWEL FISH OF KARNAK.

Graeme Base's newest picture book takes place in Ancient Egypt.  Two thieves named Jackal and Ibis are caught stealing.  The only way that they can be pardoned by the Cat Pharaoh is to find and bring back the golden Jewel Fish of Karnak that was stolen by the Crocodile Prince.  It sounds easy enough and they don't have many rules to follow. The Cat Pharaoh does let them know that it is important that they (#1)  do not take anything else and (#2) do not let the Jewel Fish get wet.

All goes well enough and the two thieves take the Jewel Fish and get away.  However, they do take a few extra treasures with them when they go. I won't give away the whole ending (that is not really the ending), but the Jewel Fish is lost and the thieves must confess to the Cat Pharaoh.

Just as in THE ELEVENTH HOUR, it seems the fun begins after the last page because the Cat Pharaoh sends them to find the fish.  This is where the reader comes in.  The challenge is for the reader to use the codes and puzzles throughout the book to find the fish. When the fish is discovered, it can be turned in to the Cat Pharaoh on Graeme Base's website for a reward.

I can see a few kids digging into this book and working hard to find the solution.  I have lots of readers who love codes and who love to read about Ancient Egypt.   I plan to share Graeme Base's book trailer (available on his site) with students sometime this month. I think the trailer will definitely hook them!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pearl Verses the World: Another Great Novel in Verse

I love novels in verse. I have seen so much power in books written in this format over the past several years. Often, these books are powerful but the format allows for deep reading. Because there is not as much text as in a "regular" novel, kids who struggle with grade level text and kids who struggle with stamina to get through an entire book, can build that stamina, confidence and fluency with novels and verse.  And, they almost always invite great conversations.

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy is a perfect example of why I love great novels in verse.  Pearl is a young girl who lives with her mother an grandmother. But her grandmother is suffering from dementia and no longer recognizes Pearl or her mother.  Pearl's mother is the sole caregiver and the grandmother's illness is taking a toll on everyone. Pearl is trying to make sense of it all. She desperately wants her grandmother back and her grief and feeling of loss is part of the book.

This is a quick read.  (only 73 pages) But it is a hard read.  Pearl is the one telling the story and she is having a hard time.  Her life is difficult right now and she is struggling. School is hard, her teacher doesn't appreciate her poetry and her grandmother's illness weighs heavily on her at all times.  I came to love Pearl very early in the book. She is genuine and honest.  She is dealing with real problems and is handling it all in very real ways.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Learning Tools in the Library

This is my fourth year in the school library and I think I am finally finished moving shelves and big furniture. For the most part, at least.  It took me about 2 years to get the space to really work for the students. I am lucky to have a very supportive principal, an amazing library aide, and a wonderful custodian. They've all been hugely instrumental in recreating the space with me. This year, there are not many big changes.  I felt like the space was working--lots of spaces for different groups of students. Lots of spaces for different types of work.  So, this year, kids will come back to the space they know (and hopefully love).

We do have some new learning tools in the library that I am very excited about.  They aren't all in yet but here are the things that I think will open up new possibilities for students this year in the library.

I am most excited about my VuPoint Magic Wand Scanner.  I attended a workshop in August and Sara Kajder (@skajder) was the speaker.  She shared this tool during the talk. Luckily, my Internet was up and I believe that I purchased it before she was finished talking about it! This is a portable scanner. One that doesn't need to be housed in one spot or connected to anything. It works like a camera but is more of a scanner. (It is battery operated with a camera card so that photos can be easily moved.)  I can imagine scanning student work that I want to keep in an assessment folder. Students can scan writing or art that they might want to add to a blog post.  They can scan things to plug into presentations.  So many possibilities of what we can do with this tool--helping to put anything kids do in some digital format. (You can read a little bit more about this one on my husband's technology blog.)

Our library has several different building toys. I believe strongly that a library needs many tools for learning and building tools are definitely a learning tool. My hope is to add more challenge-based options for students who want to use these tools this year.  A friend mentioned Flexeez in a recent blog post and once I saw what could be done with them, I ordered them. The box didn't seem to hold much when it arrived but these little pieces can create some very cool things. They are flexible and that allows for a different type of building. I can't wait to see what kids create with these!

I also have a very inexpensive Document Camera, the IPEVO Point 2 View.  I wanted a document camera that kids could use.  And when I tried it out, it works out great. I want to work with students on quality work, quality presentations, sharing information, etc. this year.  I also am pretty sure that with access to this, kids will think of ways to use it that I haven't thought of yet.  It is pretty portable so there are lots of possibilities.

We have a five Kindles in the library. I am not sure where we are going with eReaders but I think it is important that kids have access to the many tools people use to read.  I want students to experience reading in a variety of ways and to know what is possible. So, I purchased two Color Nooks this summer. I loaded them with mostly picture books, thinking that these would be used mostly for that. I want kids to have access to various ebooks and the Color Nook seemed like the smartest purchase for picture book reading.

We have 4 iPads and 2 iPod Touches on the way.  Our goal this year is to get lots of the technology that has traditionally been stored in the library out to classrooms so that students have access to the tools they need all day.  So, we will add some new technology tools for use mostly in the library. I need to work with our Technology Specialist about apps for both the iPods and the iTouches but I am thinking most of the apps we purchase will be production type tools that allow students to create things. I want them to have access to various ways to create. And of course, I will add a QR code reader.   (I also have 2-3 Wacom Bamboo Tablets that I am hoping kids find ways to utilize with draw programs, etc.)

And last, but definitely not least, may possibly end up being my very favorite learning tools is the Dry Erase Table that is currently on order. I've cleared out a corner of the library to create a type of "production area". This will be the area where kids will have space to film, think together, etc. The green screen is housed on a wall in this area and the cameras, flip videos, iPod touches, etc. will also be stored here.  The dry erase table will be a tool for collaboration. This will be a space where small groups can think, plan and design together.  When I envision an learning community, I think that this piece is key--a place to think off of one another's thinking, a place where it will become evident that what we can do together is often stronger than what any one person can do individually.

Those are the new tools that kids will see in the library over the next few weeks.  I know it will take a while for the newness factor to wear off and I know students will need a time to see what these tools are about but I am certain that each of these tools will add new invitations for learning to students.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poetry Friday -- National Dog Day

August 26 is National Dog Day. To honor the day, J. Patrick Lewis kindly sent this poem. And wasn't it serendipitous that just recently we met Brutus Winston Buckeye in Selby Park as we set out walking to the Worthington Farmer's Market?

How Big?

You were a kid, 
             I was your pup,
I got bigger
             As you grew up.
When you were four,
             I was just two.
I was already 
             As tall as you.
Now you are twelve,
             And I am ten.
I'm still as big 
             As you are, Ben. 
You are my owner,  
             But I am in charge.
You are my captain, 
             I am your barge.
You are a prince,
             But I am the king.
I am the boss
             Of everything. 
You’re the conductor,
             I am the train.
You’re a great kid, 
            And I’m a Great Dane!

J. Patrick Lewis, ©2011

Here's to our canine friends: to the slobber, the barks, the whines, the drifts of hair in the hallway...and to the the tails thumping the floor, the adoring looks, the readiness for play, the leaning on our leg.

Don't let today, National Dog Day, go by without patting a dog on the head, or rubbing a dog on the belly, or scratching a dog behind the ears. It'll lower your heart rate and it'll make the dog's day!

Irene has the Poetry Friday Round Up today at Live. Love. Explore!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Books in Favorite Series

Binky Under Pressure
by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press, 2011
Review copy provided by the publisher

Maybe you have to have a fat cat who is set in his routines and ways, and who is totally committed to the art of napping, for the character of Binky to be hilariously funny. For the rest of you, he is just really funny.

Binky's pretty sure he lives in a space station. His adventures in the first two books have revolved around protecting the space station from aliens (bugs), and have been complicated by his love for his humans and for his stuffed mouse, Ted.

In this newest book in the series, his humans have the nerve to bring another cat into the space, house. Except Gracie, the foster cat, turns out to be Binky's boss! She's a Captain, and she's there to give him a performance test and evaluation. Binky's under pressure.

The Busy Beaver
by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

This is Nicholas Oldland's third picture book featuring the beaver, moose and bear. These stories are a fun way to expand students' understanding of fables beyond the familiar Aesop's.

The book starts, "There once was a beaver who was so busy that he didn't always think things through." Beaver works up a huge mess and is felled by a tree he is busily felling. Beaver reflects on what he's done and mends his ways (and his friendships and the forest.)

Ninja Cowboy Bear Presents: The Call of the Cowboy
by David Bruins and Hilary Leung
Kids Can Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

In their first book, Ninja, Cowboy and Bear learned that they each have different strengths, so none of them can be "the best." In the second book, they realized that they each like to play in different ways. And in this third book in the series, Cowboy has to learn that his noisy rambunctiousness has a time and a place...but not when bear is birdwatching, or when Ninja is reading.

*   *   *

All three of these are going into the "New Favorite Series" tub in my classroom for the first day of school today!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Names are on my mind at this time of the year. Or I should say, names are IN my mind at this time of the year, because, until the first day of school on Thursday, that's all most of my students are to me -- a list of names. Names to put on name tags, on charts, on die cut birthday cakes. Many of my students have names that are tricky for a native English-speaker -- names with lots of consonants or with the accent on an unusual (for me) syllable, and all have names that come packed with family and cultural history.

I have a collection of picture books that I use at the beginning of every year to talk about names:

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin

My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed

This year, I have a new book to add to my list of favorites:

My Name is Elizabeth!
by Annika Dunklee
illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
KidsCan Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

Elizabeth loves her name, but she doesn't like it when people call her names other than Elizabeth. Lizzy, Liz,  Beth, Betsy...none of them will do. She asserts herself in a LOUD double page spread, and the people in her world get her message and call her Elizabeth. (Or as close to that as the baby can get!)

I can totally relate to Elizabeth. I've always been Mary Lee, never Mary. And I, too, have learned to advocate for the name that encompasses my identity.

Because of my own sensitivity about my name, I work extra hard to get my students' names just right. I look forward to Elizabeth helping with that conversation this year!

The New York Times agrees that this will make a great back to school book.

Betsy (Elizabeth) Bird reviewed the book on Fuse 8.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2 New KLUTZ Movie-Making Books

A few years ago, I discovered the KLUTZ TRICKY VIDEOS book. (Blog Review here) I shared it with kids in the midst of some work with critical literacy--helping kids to see that what they saw in movies, commercials, etc. weren't always quite as they appeared.

So, I was thrilled to find two new KLUTZ video-creation books to share with kids this fall. MAKE YOUR OWN MUSIC VIDEO by Kaitlyn Nichols and THE KLUTZ BOOK OF ANIMATION by John Cassidy and Nicholas Berger.  Both look like they are filled with great tips for creating good videos.

Over the last few years in the library, I feel like our K-5 kids have really learned a lot about the tools of technology and what they could do. They have expanded the ways they use technology--rather than just being tools for game playing and recreation, they are now using the tools for learning and creation.  One of my big goals next year is to really think about raising the quality of the types of things students are creating and producing. I think they needed some time to play and see what was possible and we are ready to move ahead to really thinking about how to craft quality pieces.

I took some time with the Animation book today. This one is quite similar to the Tricky Video book but focuses almost completely on Stop Motion animation. The book has nearly 20 things to try with stop motion with directions and props when needed (pull out pages in the back of the book). For each set of directions, readers can go online to see the video in action. Videos include Claymation (Runaway Clay) as well as other stop motion (PAPER DOLL DISCO and NO-HANDED EATING).  The book also provides tips on sound effects and other tips for your first stop motion video.

The MUSIC VIDEO book is a bit different in that each page focuses on one tip for creating good music videos.  A few examples are "10 Steps to Amazing Air Guitar" and "Special Effects on an Allowance". The book also includes a portable green screen, downloadable backgrounds and free editing software (which I have not checked out.)

My goal with books like this is to open up the possibilities for students. I believe that for students to view and consume critically, understanding how things are created is critical.  The key this year will be to move beyond this quickly and to use the tips in these to create videos with messages or stories with depth.  I think the kids are ready to learn about sound effects, etc. and to then embed those skills into videos that they create in order to give a message, review a book, tell a story, etc.

I'm looking forward to sharing these with students in a few weeks

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mentor Author, Mentor Texts by Ralph Fletcher

I was excited to finally get a copy of Ralph Fletcher's newest book for teachers, MENTOR AUTHOR, MENTOR TEXTS.  I always love whatever Ralph writes so I was looking forward to this one.  This book is a collection of short texts, written by Ralph, with his insider's thinking on each piece.
I love Ralph's introduction to this book. It is called "Contagious Magic" and Ralph shares his thinking on the idea of mentor texts in our teaching.  The thing I love about Ralph's work is that it keeps me grounded.  He is a writer and also understands teaching and learning and he is always about keeping school writing experiences authentic for children. So, in this book, he is clear about his idea of mentor texts. He is clear about what worries him about how texts are being used in schools.  (At one point, he questions the word "anchor" texts because anchors weigh us down and this writing should lift us up.)  He talks about how often, we, as teachers, use mentor texts to point the things out that we want kids to notice. But he challenges us to let our students own the idea of mentor texts. He says, "let's invite students to connect with whatever aspect of the text they find compelling or intriguing." He adds, "let's honor whatever they notice, and use that as the building blocks of our teaching."  Ralph approaches mentor texts as invitations for student writers, putting them in charge of what they notice and what they are ready for.  He speaks against the idea of "doing mentor texts" and assigning tasks for students to "do" with certain texts and that studying mentor texts is not about having the right answer or noticing what the teacher wants you to notice.

Ralph continues the book with an introduction of himself to students. A great intro to his collection of writing, letting kids in on Ralph as a person, a writer and a teacher. He shares lots of the same things with students that he did in the intro-his belief about mentor texts and his invitation to them to notice things.

Then he gives us a collection of his own writing--writing from some of the books we love-Fig Pudding, Harvest Moon, Ordinary Things and others.  And with each piece of writing, he gives us a short narrative--an informal chat about what his thinking was behind the piece.  He doesn't include a detail of every decision he made, but just shares his thinking about the things he thinks are important about the piece or important decisions he made in the process of writing. And he gives readers an invitation to notice something or try something.

Included in this book are some web-based PDFs that can be used on a whiteboard, etc to share with kids. There is also audio of Ralph reading several of his pieces. You can access both of these with a password provided in the book.

I love the whole idea of this book. The idea of a mentor text as invitation. The idea that it is more important to value the things that our students notice in good writing, than to force our noticings on them. The idea that we want our students to find their own mentor texts and find things they are ready for as writers.  And I love that students can get the inside scoop on some of Ralph's writing. The idea of mentor texts as more of a process than a science is refreshing. And you can always count on Ralph to be refreshing and to help us really think about our work with students.  Ralph is a great author to mentor us as teachers and to mentor our student writers.


(To hear Ralph talk about his thinking on mentor texts, you can listen to my podcast interview with him at Choice Literacy.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Found Poem

Flickr Creative Commons licensed photo by Thokrates

by Robert Louis Stevenson

In anything fit to be called
by the name of reading,
the process itself
should be

we should gloat over a book,
be rapt
clean out of ourselves
and rise from the perusal,
our mind
with the busiest,
kaleidoscopic dance of images,
incapable of sleep
or of continuous thought.

The words,
if the book be eloquent,
should run thenceforth in our ears like the noise of

and the story,
if it be a story,
repeat itself in a thousand coloured pictures
to the eye.

from Memories and Portraits, but found in The Pocket R. L. S. : Being Favourite Passages From the Works of Stevenson, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922

Thank you, AJ, for sharing this passage-turned-poem (by me) in your little leather-bound 1922 collection of R. L. S. quotes and passages.

Here are a couple of links from some recent discussions about the love of reading:
Alan Jacobs in The Journal of Higher Education
and a response from
Donalyn Miller at Education Week.

Where do you stand on the love of reading?

Today, the Poetry Friday Round Up is at Dori Reads.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Exclusive Excerpt of Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

by Anne Ursu
illustrated by Erin McGuire
on shelves September 27

Here's a snippet, a "crumb," as it were, of one of our favorite fall books. You won't want to miss this one!

"She stepped outside, and then stopped and stared. The small garden was just a slip of earth on the side of the house, but it seemed like its own universe. The sweet, sharp scent of hundreds of flowers greeted her. Even in the night their colors sang. It was a thick, lush blanket of color—luxurious purple and electric blue and sunshine yellow and cheery red. It was like a movie version of an enchanted garden, gorgeous, vivid, and too beautiful to be real. She could dive into the purple of the violets and live there.

She felt suddenly that she wanted for nothing in the world. The flowers called to her, like they had secrets to tell—Rose, come on. Hazel found herself lying down on the cushioned white bench that sat among them, and their fragrance reached up to welcome her.

Sleep pulled her back immediately, wrapping her in the sort of haze that presses down on you and you’re not sure it will ever let you go but you’re not sure that you ever want to leave. It was so peaceful there in the fog. She wanted for nothing.

And then the flowers began to whisper to her. The noise did not belong. It pulled at her brain like longing, and Hazel wanted it to go away.

They did not stop whispering. The flowers had secrets. They had names, too, though the couple in the cottage called them Daisy, Lily, Hyacinth, Violet, Dahlia, Jasmine, Poppy, and they did not remember the ones they had before. They told Hazel that she must listen.

Daisy grew up in a house with a stream in back, and behind it were some woods. She and her friends Isabelle and Amelia played in them all the time when they were little kids, even though they weren’t supposed to. Daisy’s mother liked to keep her eye on them, and the trees blocked herview. And then Daisy got sick and could not play anymore. Her friends stood by her bed telling her of the things they did, but after a while they stopped coming. Daisy snuck out of the house one morning, dragging her muscles and bones with her, and crept into the woods. She came upon a wizard who lured her in with healing whispers but did not mean her well. She ran, and a kindly couple took her in.

She was a flower now. She missed her friends and the games they’d play in the woods. They were princesses once, charged with saving the kingdom from a dragon, and whoever could defeat it would be queen. Daisy used strength, Amelia wits, and Isabelle fell in love with the dragon, because that’s the sort of girl she was. She rid the kingdom of the dragon, and then made it its king."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Souvenirs From Belgium

I brought you chocolates from Belgium!

Oops! I ate them all before we left Europe!

Oh, well, push back from your computer so you don't drool on the keyboard, and enjoy vicariously:

(Click on the mosaic and/or on each image to enlarge. You can also visit these pictures on Flickr.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I am so excited to have discovered THE ONE AND ONLY STUEY LEWIS by Jane Schoenberg. It looks like this is going to be a new series that will be perfect for transitional readers!

Stuey Lewis is a 2nd grader. He has an older brother named Anthony, a best friend named Will, and a wonderful teacher named Ginger/Ms. Curtis.  Each of the 4 chapters in this book is a story about Stuey, and he is a pretty funny guy. In the first chapter, Stuey starts 2nd grade and is very worried that he is not yet a great reader.  In the second chapter, Stuey, plans his annual Halloween Caper, which even his big brother, Anthony, is in on (it is a surprise:-). In the third chapter, Stuey starts to play on a soccer team. And, in the fourth chapter, the school year ends.

The four chapters follow the sequence of the school year but each also stands alone. I love this for transitional readers.  Such a great comprehension support when each chapter stands alone. There are also a few key characters throughout the book that readers will come to know more and more with each chapter.  I LOVED this book and think it is a great addition to the books out there for this age level. I can't wait for more stories about Stuey Lewis to come out. (The author's website indicates that the next Stuey Lewis book is due out this spring and will focus on Stuey Lewis's third grade year:-) I am hoping that this author writes lots of books about Stuey's adventures in 2nd and 3rd grades. He is a great new character!

Monday, August 15, 2011

17th European Conference on Reading, Mons Belgium

I've attended conferences. I've presented at conferences. (I've even helped to plan conferences.) So at the same time that there was nothing new about attending and presenting at the 17th European Conference on Reading in Mons, Belgium, it was like no conference I've ever been involved with!

I met teachers (mostly professors) from Germany, Iceland, Scotland, Russia, Finland, Taiwan...Pennsylvania, and Kansas.

The opening session was given in French, with simultaneous translation (earphones) in English. I felt like I was at the United Nations!

I attended some sessions based on interest (great session on teaching inference to deepen reading comprehension given by 3 presenters from...Kent State University in Ohio!), and I attended other sessions to compare and contrast information (for example, sessions dealing with using children's books given by presenters from Germany, the Netherlands, Taiwan; sessions on digital literacy given by presenters from the US and from Canada, Brazil, and Australia).

The session I attended that best captures the flavor of the conference was one I chose based on interest in the topic, but which was a complete stretch in terms of the language/cultural divide: "The pedagogy of reading: a cross-curricular and multicultural approach" chaired by Tatiana Galaktionova of Russia, and presented by Liliya Mishkina, Svetlana Savvina, and Irina Kozlova of Russia. At the beginning of the session, they asked how many English speakers were in the audience, and as there were a handful of us, they presented in both Russian and English.

The first part of the session was about using a "Reader's Portfolio" as the content for Computer Studies lessons -- teaching about word processing by having students complete a reading passport and reading biography; learning about spreadsheets and graphing while keeping track of books read; creating pages for reading response and reading logs. The next part of the session described an approach that used children's literature as a way to encourage students to engage more deeply in reading. Finally, the third presenter told about a cross-curricular study that was based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales.

At the end of the session, the presenters called for questions. Here's a move I'll try the next time I present -- when there were no questions, they were prepared with questions for the audience! The first presenter asked what else we would suggest be included in a digital reader's portfolio. I suggested an audio or video clip to capture the reader's fluency at several different times in the school year. Well, I guess that having an English-speaker who not only understood their presentation, but was willing to interact with pertinent ideas made some kind of impression -- when the next two presenters asked their questions, they addressed them directly to me! What are some examples of children's literature used in the classrooms in the US? Quick -- explain a classroom filled with 500-1000 children's books and a literature-based reading workshop in a soundbite that translates to Russian!! I fared better on the last question. When asked about cross-curricular studies in the US, I explained that content standards and testing have made those kind of interdisciplinary studies hard/impossible in many places in the US (mumbles of agreement sounded from around the room).

After the session, I stepped across the aisle to ask a Russian participant a question about the role of choice in Russian reading classes. (From the presentations, choice seemed to be limited to choice from a list, or no choice at all.) She understood my question, but didn't have enough English vocabulary to answer it, so while she went off to get a translator to help, I chatted with two teachers from Finland about choice, reading workshop model, and standards.

Big take-away from this session and from the conference: Teachers around the world are more alike than they are different. Also, even if we don't realize it, we are involved in a global conversation about

  • diversity -- how do we teach TO differences as resources
  • literacy -- critical, multilingual
  • literature -- comprehension, for social understanding, for cultural understanding
  • teaching in a Digital Age -- digital literacy balanced with text-based literacy, teaching our students (as much as possible) using the digital tools with which they are familiar/comfortable

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) definition of literacy

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I love unique ABC books and I recently found two that I can't wait to share with kids!

CAVEMAN ABC STORY by Janee Trasler is a fun story about a Caveman and his pet(s). It begins with the letter A, when the Caveman and his pet Squirrel find an "ACORN". But the word on the 2nd page is "BEAR" and you know what that means. The author takes us through the letters of the alphabet, using one word for each letter, to tell us a story of the caveman.  First of all, this is a fun, unique ABC book in that it tells a complete story with only one word per letter/page. 

APPLE PIE ABC was similar in format, but relied on phrases rather than single words to tell the story.  (It would be fun to pair these two.) Not only is CAVEMAN ABC STORY a fun concept, but the illustrations are colorful and fun. This is definitely a book that kids will want to pick up.  And it is a great book for new readers--it will support picture reading, word work strategies, storytelling and more.  A MUST HAVE, I think:-)

The other new ABC book I love is IF ROCKS COULD SING: A DISCOVERED ALPHABET by Leslie McGuirk (I learned about this one from Bill at Literate Lives.)  Author, Leslie McGuirk began a collection of rocks years ago when she noticed rocks that looked like letters. This book showcases her collection in Alphabet Book format. Not only has Leslie McGuirk found rocks that look like every letter of the alphabet, but she's also found rocks that look like objects that begin with each letter of the alphabet. So, on the "T is for Toast" page, we get to see the rock that is shaped like the letter T as well as the rock shaped like toast (which is displayed on a plate with a knife and butter:-).  This is an amazing book once you understand that these are real rocks that the author found. This would be a fun one for beginning readers. I can also see it as a tie-in to any landforms/erosion/weather type of unit that teachers do in Science--how did these rocks become these shapes?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Time Does Not Stand Still


It's been said before
(a million-million times)
but it bears repeating:
time is a river that does not
stand still and wait for me.

--I remember the exact moment I learned to float on my back in the cold blue water of the swimming pool. I lay there looking up at the cloudless sky, sun on my face, roar of water in my ears. Floating. I floated until someone came and stood me up and told me that swimming lessons were over.--

Today I will try floating
on the river of time
instead of thrashing my arms and legs against the never ending current,
instead of racing to beat it to some place where no finish line exists.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2011

It's good to be back, after two weeks in Belgium. Simultaneously, it's hard to be back, after two weeks in Belgium.

It's impossible not to think about time when you're in a place where the 1800's are recent history. The image above is the remaining fragment of the original city wall of Brussels. The river of time has clearly moved on and stranded it there in the midst of modern life.

It's impossible not to think about time when the new school year wakes you up and leaves you sleepless in the cricket-dark of the early morning.

Karen is hosting today's Poetry Friday round up at Karen Edmisten: The Blog With The Shockingly Clever Title. (I love writing that!) Many thanks to Kate and Libby for rounding up my scheduled PF posts the past two weeks while I was away!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tugg and Teeny: Jungle Surprises

Tugg and Teeny: Jungle Surprises
by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Christopher Denise
Sleeping Bear Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

I love this series (and I tell why here)!

The first first book had three stories that were all arts-themed. The second book in the series has three mysteries. In the first story, the friends solve the mystery of Teeny's missing lucky writing hat. In the second, the animals figure out how to tell Zig and Zag (the zebras) apart. (Look closely in the last illustration for the clue you need!) Finally, the pair figures out what kind of a bird has "polka dot wings and a wiggly tail."

This is a great series for beginning chapter book readers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 for 10 -- Folk and Fairy Tale Variants

First of all, can I just say how much I love the number TEN?
I love it almost as much as I love the magical numbers THREE and SEVEN!!

SOOOoooo...for this year's 10 for 10 Picture Books event at Reflect & Refine and Enjoy and Embrace Learning, I have chosen 10 Favorite Folk and Fairy Tale Variants -- TEN books that might feature the magical numbers of THREE or SEVEN (3+7 does = 10, after all!!).

These first two are

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy TalesYummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales by Lucy Cousins
This one's the anchor for the set -- 8 familiar fairy tales, told in short form, with big, bold illustrations. Good for reference, good for students who've gotten to 4th grade without knowing some basic fairy tales, good for ELL students and other readers who need that picture support. A big, thick picture book.

Fairly Fairy TalesFairly Fairy Tales by Esmé Raji Codell
This book follows a pattern of asking the reader about three fairy tale elements or characters from familiar stories ("Red hood? Yes. Wolf? Yes. Grandma? Yes.") followed by something that might not fit the story ("Shampoo? NOOOOO!") and an illustration that shows how it might ("Well, maybe." -- and we see Little Red's Grandma's Beauty Salon, serving wolves, with the woodcutter as the shampoo guy.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Next, we've got a pair of books that riff on the same variant -- in both these books, the Dish and the Spoon run away, with different results.

And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel
And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon

The Adventures of the Dish and the SpoonThe Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon by Mini Grey

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

These two give us the world of fairy tales in poetry form:

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible VerseMirror Mirror  by Marilyn Singer

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read TogetherYou Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Fairy Tales by Mary Ann Hoberman

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

What would fairy tales be without princesses? Here are two that give us, first, a very non-traditional look at princesses, and second, a mashup of lots of familiar princesses, all in the same story.

The Secret Lives of PrincessesThe Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier

There's a Princess in the PalaceThere's a Princess in the Palace by Zoë B. Alley

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Here's that magic number THREE! Three osos/bears, and three dassies/pigs:

Rubia and the Three OsosRubia and the Three Osos by Susan Middleton Elya

The 3 Little DassiesThe 3 Little Dassies by Jan Brett

Last year, I shared 10 Picture Books I've Loved for More Than 10 Years. It was fun to gather another 10 to share this year. I can't wait to see everyone else's lists!